At this time of year it not unusual for a vehicle manufacturer to bundle together their latest fringe versions introduced in the winter months to their main model ranges,
into a series of regional Press events so their latest creations can be given a media airing.
Volkswagen is the latest manufacturer to do a springtime road show wheeling out the Golf GTE their first plug-in hybrid which costs £28k after the Governments plug-in £5k grant, the new Passat Saloon and Estate, the 2015 Car of the Year, which we have already reviewed, the refreshed Touareg large SUV with revised engine and transmission options and at the other end of the scale their very successful City Car range of the up! which now includes two fresh additions – the Club up! and Street up!
But as spring is in the air it was the new 146mph Polo GTI priced from £18,850 and the equally new Scirocco R 155mph Coupe priced from £32,580 that appealed most on this occasion. Unfortunately the £30,805 new Golf R 300hp hatchbacks were missing from the event.
The new Polo GTI
This is the fourth generation Polo GTI with the original Polo G40 being introduced in 1985. The latest model is based on the updated Polo which went on sale in July 2014. The Polo remains VW’s second best selling range after the Golf. Last year the Golf was the UK’s fourth best-selling car with 73,880 registrations and the Polo the seventh best top ten seller with 48,000 buyers. Around 70% of Polo sales go the retail customers and also 70% of customers choose the five door body style. The GTI versions for enthusiasts are expected to account for 2% (960 units) of total Polo UK sales this year.
The latest Polo GTIs come in three and five door body styles priced from £18,850 with a £630 increase for the five door models. A further £1,245 will buy the optional seven-speed DSG auto gearbox.
Under the bonnet is now a new 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged direct injection petrol engine producing 192hp and 320Nm of torque from a very low 1,450rpm for manual gearbox models but less at 250Nm from 1,250rpm for the DSG automatic transmission version. This meaty new engine replaces the 1.4-litre 180hp petrol unit which was only available with a DSG auto transmission.
Top speed is 146mph regardless of gearbox type with zero to 62mph taking 6.7-seconds. The Combined Cycle fuel economy figures are 47.1mpg for the manual gearbox and 50.4mpg for the auto. The CO2 emissions are 139g/km manual and 129g/km auto. My spirited test driving spell around country roads resulted in 31.1mpg for the five door, manual gearbox model – well short of the official figure.
But you do get a lot of performance for your use of petrol. The big feature of the new engine is its broad range of high torque. The ‘grunt’ comes in at very low engine speed of 1,450rpm for a turbocharged petrol engine and it keeps on delivering strongly up until 4,200rpm, basically all its worthwhile rev range. It is just a case of push and go from the accelerator with the six speed close ratio gearbox well suited to the high torque characteristics. Another benefit of this new larger capacity engine over the previous 1.4-litre unit is that it is relatively quiet and smooth under pressure and rarely sounds stressed. To get the power safely and efficiently through the front wheels without torque-steer, too much understeer or the tyres scrabbling for grip on take-off, there is an XDS+ electronic differential. This also assists with the car’s agility. There are two driving modes which allow the selection of Sport or Comfort depending on the driver’s requirements or mood.
The new Polo GTI looks like its bigger Golf GTI stablemate with more pronounced bumpers over the less ‘hot’ versions, 17-inch alloys, honeycomb style grille with red grille strips, lowered sports suspension, LED lights, roof spoiler, black rear diffuser and chrome dual exhaust pipes. Inside there are leather bound sports steering wheel, gear lever and brake lever. The seats have check design cloth upholstery with black bolsters which have been GTI hallmarks with the Golf since 1976.
Overall the new Polo GTI benefits from its new heart.
Mini Milestones: VW Polo GTI 1.8-litre TSI 192hp, 6-speed manual; 5-door. Price: £19,480.
Engine/transmission: 1.8, 4-cylinder, turbocharged direct injection petrol, 192hp, 320Nm of torque from 1,450, 6-speed manual. Performance: 146mph, 0-62mph 6.7-seconds, 47.1mpg (31.1mpg on test), CO2 139g/km, VED road tax £130. Insurance group: 29E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. For: High torque responsive engine, fast but refined, classy interior. Against: Handling not as sharp or as agile as the Ford Fiesta ST.
The new Scirocco R
The second of VW’s new high performance big hitters is the 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol 280hp, 155mph Scirocco R 2+2 seater, two door coupe priced at £32,580 for the manual version and £34,080 for the DSG automatic gearbox model. Other less powerful Scirocco models start from £20,735.
The UK is the second largest market worldwide for the Scirocco after China and so the largest in Europe. Just over 4,000 units were sold here last year and the R version will be a rare sight on our roads with sales forecast to be only around 1%
Deliveries of the revised Scirocco began in October last year with the new top-of-the-range R version available now. The R treatment outside sees the addition of prominent front and rear bumpers, muscular wheel arches, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, big 19-inch alloy wheels and a 10mm lowered suspension set-up. Inside there are lots of retro styled sports dials including a turbo boost gauge and of course there is the usual multi-function computer display. If you want the 6.5-inch touchscreen with DVD navigation, DAB radio and lots more multimedia functions then they are available as a £1,125 pack and this option enhances the classy design and specification very nicely. The sporty but dated 2+2 interior is also finished off with R-specific sports seats.
It is under the bonnet that the R specification makes more of a difference than pure cosmetics giving the coupe pace to go with its muscular sporting styling. At its heart is a 2.0-litre turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine producing 280hp with loads of torque of 350Nm but from 2,500rpm. Top speed is limited to 155mph and zero to 62mph takes 5.7-seconds and it is slightly faster with the six-speed DSG auto gearbox I tried at 5.5 seconds.
The fuel economy with this auto box is 35.8mpg and my winding country road test drive returned 27.8mpg. The CO2 emissions are 185g/km so VED road tax is £350 for the First Year rate reducing to £225 for successive years. This engine is similar to the 300hp unit used for the Golf R hatchback.
The combination of free revving turbo petrol engine and the six-speed close ratio auto gearbox work really well together and by using the gear change paddles will introduce the enviable sound track of exhaust blips as gears are changed down the ratios. It is a racy combination when needed but if the driving mood is less frantic then the engine can be relaxed and flexible when driving in busy traffic conditions with a fast response boost of power to clear dawdling obstructions. Also there is the option to change between Comfort, Normal and Sport driving modes. Dynamic Chassis Control is standard for this R model which is good given its potential for brutal power delivery. Mostly though cornering performance is grippy, the steering is precise, it gives good feedback and the electronic stability system keeps everything safely under control.
Its closest competitor also comes from the VW Group family, namely the highly rated new Audi TT Coupe. The Scirocco is slightly cheaper and roomier with more load space of 312-litres with the rear seats in place and 1,006-litres with them folded down. However the Scirocco does not have VW’s highly rated latest MQB platform, the Audi TT does!
Mini Milestones: VW Scirocco R 2+2, two door coupe, 2.0 TSI 280hp automatic. Price: £34,080. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged direct injection petrol, 280hp, 320Nm of torque from 2,500rpm, 6-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic gearbox, front wheel drive. Performance: 155mph restricted top speed, 0-62mph 5.5-seconds, 35.8mpg Combined Cycle (27.8mpg on test), CO2 185/gkm, VED road tax £350/£225. Insurance group: 39E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. For: Adds pace and sporty styling to an elegant coupe design, pleasing to drive fast or slow, well balanced handling. Against: Road noise intrusion on course surfaces, rear seat access, high rear sill to the boot, dated fascia panel styling, lacks VW’s latest MQB platform. Miles Better News Agency